What are reactions in Microsoft Teams?

In Microsoft Teams, a reaction is a way for users to respond quickly to a message with an emoji. This allows users to express their emotions or thoughts about a specific message without having to type out a response. For example, if someone posts a message about a project deadline, another user might add a reaction with a smiley face to show that they are on top of it or a thumbs up to indicate their approval.

Using reactions can also become part of a company’s Modern Workplace culture around how they use Microsoft Teams. For example, Microsoft Teams is used instead of email at my work to post important updates and information. Staff are expected to show they have read and understood the message using the “thumbs up” reaction icon to show the poster that the content has been digested. Comments can then be used for helpful chat, such as raising clarifications or contributing to the thread.

Chat with a like reaction

Where are reactions used in Microsoft Teams?

Reactions can be used in any team conversation or message thread, including group chats, one-on-one conversations, and channels within a team. They can also be used in Microsoft Teams Meetings but more on that later.

To add a reaction to a message, users hover over the message and click on the “Add reaction” icon that appears. This will bring up a list of available emoji from which the user can choose. Once an emoji is selected, it appears next to the message for all to see. Reactions can be used against any message in the thread, not just the original post.

Old style reaction selection menu

What are Live Reactions in Microsoft Teams Meetings?

Live Reactions are based on the same idea as reactions for chats, but are used in Microsoft Teams Meetings instead. In a meeting, a “Reactions” icon will be visible from the top menu. Here you can select one of 5 live reactions to use.

Live reactions in a meeting

These live reactions are:

  • Like
  • Love
  • Applause
  • Laugh
  • Surprise

On selecting the reaction, it will display in the main meeting window and show on top of your picture/video feed. They will even display over any shared content in the meeting. If more than one person sends a reaction to the meeting at a time, multiple reactions will be displayed.

These are a great way to show a quick reaction to things happening in the meeting and will fade away after a few seconds.

Microsoft Teams meeting with a Live Reaction heart

You can also still use “traditional” reactions to comments in the meeting chat.

Incidentally, this is where you can “raise your hand” in the meeting but more on that another time.

Can you add custom reactions to Microsoft Teams?

For a long time, the only available reactions for messages were; Like, Heart, Laugh, Surprised, Sad and Angry:

Original reaction picker

But as of December 2022 this is changing, as the long-delayed update 88080 has finally hits General Availability.

This update replaces the last two reactions with a custom reaction picker button labeled simply “Emoji”:

Updated emoji reactions

This picker then opens, letting you browse, search and select any of the updated 1800+ modern emojis now included in Microsoft Teams. Everyone should now have the new emoji shown in the screenshot, as Microsoft refreshed and updated them in February 2022.

The picker looks as follows:

Updated reaction emoji picker

Having found and selected your new reaction, it will now display under the message with a counter:

Chat with custom reactions and counter

Other people can quickly “agree” with your reaction by clicking on it, and the counter will increase. But, of course, they are also free to add different reactions!

Will Microsoft Teams remember my most used reactions?

After using some custom reactions, the “quick list” will always stay the same when hovering over a message, showing:

  • Like
  • Heart
  • Laugh
  • Surprised

But when you select the emoji picker, the first screen now shows your most recently used ones:

Recent emoji selection screen

How do you get the new Teams reaction emojis?

The new emoji picker was only made available in December 2022 as part of update 88080 on the M365 Roadmap. So if you do not have it in your client yet, it might be that the roll out hasn’t reached you yet, or that your tenant is one of the specialised tenants which can lag behind with feature deployments.

One thing you can try is accessing Microsoft Teams via the web browser at teams.microsoft.com and seeing if the new emoji picker is visible there. If it is, then you know the feature has hit your tenant, and you can force an upgrade of the desktop client by choosing “Check for updates” from the “…” menu in the top right of the client next to your name and profile icon:

This will force the desktop client to update if there is a new version available.